Baltimore Ravens Predictions
Steve McNair’s announcement to retire before the 2008 season took the life out of the Ravens. As in year’s past, the defense will carry the team under new head coach John Harbaugh. The Ravens still have enough talented veterans in Ray Lewis, Trevor Pryce, Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle to carry this team. But on offense, two of the three quarterbacks challenging for starting jobs have a combined year of experience under their belts. Even worse for these QB’s, the offensive line is also young. Harbaugh will have his hands full as you can see by our 2008 Baltimore Ravens predictions below.
Kyle Boller will likely win out the starting quarterback job over second-year man Troy Smith and draftee Joe Flacco. But the future plan is for Flacco to take over the reigns if he can be anywhere near as effective as he was in college. Boller has all the tools to be a good quarterback, but he didn’t develop much under former head coach Bill Billick.
Willis McGahee put the questions about his injured knee to rest last season by leading this offense both as a rusher and a receiver. He’ll get some relief from Ray Rice, the Ravens’ second-round pick out of Rutgers. McGahee is more of a cutback and slasher while Rice runs straight ahead with a very low center of gravity. Rice will try and be more of the same type of runner Jamaal Lewis was in Baltimore during their Super Bowl title a few years back. Fullbacks Le’Ron McClain and Justin Green provide versatility as McClain is a solid blocker while Green is a great pass-catcher out of the backfield.
The Ravens have a solid group of receivers, but this is far from a spectacular unit. Derrick Mason brings consistency and Mark Clayton will have to work on that aspect on the other side. The Ravens still lack a proven deep vertical threat, but that answer might come in third-year man Demetrius Williams. The primary target will likely be tight end Todd Heap. He’ll have to avoid injuries so new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron can move him around and match Heap up with opposing safeties through different formations.
Rookies Ben Grubb, the starting right guard, and right tackle Marshal Yanda were asked to grow up in a hurry. Each started 12 games last season while players recovered from injuries. Jonathan Ogden is telling the team he will not be back for this 13th season, but for now he’s penciled in as the starter at left tackle. Left guard Jason Brown should have a breakout season. The Ravens must find a center. They cut veteran Mike Flynn to make room for Chris Chester, who did not play well last year but the Ravens love his up-side. There will be open competition at right tackle where veteran Adam Terry has bulked u and will challenge Yanda.
The Ravens feel they have the best pair of tackles in the league in Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg. Both are excellent run-stoppers, but Ngata could emerge as a great pass-rusher this season. Both require constant double-teams, opening up ends and linebackers to do damage on opposing quarterbacks. Pryce is back after missing 11 games last year. Capable backups in end Dwan Edwards and tackle Justin Bannan will figure into the mix as well.
The Ravens have a great combination of experience, youth and depth at linebacker. Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott are three of the most feared linebackers in the game. Outside backer Jarret Johnson should improve with one year of experience under his belt. Lewis, Suggs and Scott are in the final year of their contracts. The Ravens have a good group of young linebackers ready to take their place in Antwan Barnes, Prescott Burgess, Edgar Jones and rookie Tavares Gooden.
Veteran corners McAlister and Rolle will be asked to carry this secondary. Both are over 30, and both missed too much time last year due to injuries. They can defend any pair of receivers in the league when healthy. This is crucial because it sets up the blitz a lot, leaving the corners exposed. Fabian Washington is ready to step in and take Rolle’s place if Samari can’t prove he is capable of press coverage. The Ravens are set at safety with Ed Reed and Dawan Landry returning. Reed will have to cut down on his gambling that allowed too many big plays last year while Landry will have to improve his coverage. Both can lay the wood on receivers coming over the middle.
Info Plays 2008 Baltimore Ravens Predictions:
An aging defense in Baltimore is still better than most in the league. But they will have to get some help from their offense this season. Injuries to many key defenders were the result of being on the field far too much, and playing tired football nearly every snap. A defense can only carry a team so far, so it’s Kyle Boller’s time to step up and prove he is capable of being a staring quarterback in this league. The Ravens could be a sleeper in 2008, but they have too many ego issues that do not spell team football. Baltimore will try their best to stay out of the bottom pit in the AFC North, but in the end this team is too injury prone to hang with the likes of the Steelers and Browns. They may clip the Bengals, but we just don’t see it happening with a new head coach trying to control too many egos this season. Baltimore finishes 4th in the AFC North division in 2008.